Elliott, Matt

Elliott, Matt



In Brief

Matt Elliott is a historian, biographer and a former stand-up comedian. He is the author of Kiwi Jokers: the rise and rise of New Zealand comedy, which examines contemporary developments in humour on the New Zealand entertainment scene, and Billy T: The Life and Times of Billy T James. Nice Day for a War: Adventures of a Kiwi Soldier in World War I, co-authored by award-winning cartoonist, Chris Slane, won the Non-fiction category of the 2012 NZ Post Children's Book Awards and was named 2012 Children's Book of the Year overall.


Elliott, Matt is a historian, biographer and a former stand-up comedian with over twenty years experience. He has also worked in television, radio, film and as a legal researcher. He grew up in Auckland and was educated at St Peter's College, and later moved to Melbourne where he performed on the comedy circuit. He currently lives in Auckland.

Matt Elliott is the author of Kiwi Jokers: the rise and rise of New Zealand comedy (HarperCollins NZ, 1997), which examines recent developments in humour on the New Zealand entertainment scene. Gordon McLauchlan reviewed the book in the NZ Herald, ‘Kiwi Jokers is mostly thoughtful, fast and funny…Above all the book is a good read about people we all know – or thought we knew.’

Billy T: The Life and Times of Billy T James (HarperCollins NZ, 2010) was declared the best biography for 2009 in a review by Warwick Roger in North & South, ‘The book is a social history of the 1960s and seventies and all the characters from that golden era in local show business are here… Matt Elliot, a part-time Auckland comedian, has done Billy T proud. His is the year’s best biography.’ Roger Hall also reviewed the book in NZ Listener, ‘Elliot has done a fine job in setting the record straight, and reminding us of the skills, triumphs and tribulations of a man who might just possibly have been the most-loved Kiwi ever.’

Nice Day for a War: Adventures of a Kiwi Soldier in World War I (HarperCollins NZ, 2011) is co-authored by award-winning cartoonist, Chris Slane. Matthew Wright reviewed the book in the NZ Listener, ‘War history is one of the best lenses for exploring the hard truths of the human condition. Chris Slane and Matt Elliott's Nice Day For A War... reveals that in spectacular fashion... Conceptually, it was probably a gamble, but it works - brilliantly. Here we have an intimate melding of art, literature, humanity and history, a synthesis giving life and a startling immediacy to their themes.’

Nice Day for a War was nominated in the Non-fiction section of the NZ Post Children's Book Awards, and won this category. It was then named Children's Book of the Year 2012. “Nice Day for a War is a stand-out book which offers young readers an honest glimpse into the lives of soldiers during World War I,” said Gillian Candler, the Awards Convenor of Judges.

Matt Elliott is co-author of Kiwi Man Caves (HarperCollins NZ, 2011) with Steve Hale.

Elliott's biography Dave Gallaher - the Original All Black Captain (HarperCollins) was published in 2012. The book was reviewed in the Dominion Post, 'Author Matt Elliott does a sterling job... It’s Elliott’s depictions of Gallaher’s war experiences which sets this book apart from bog-standard rugby biography.’ Dylan Cleaver wrote of the book in the NZ Herald, '...Gallaher is a fascinating insight into a different time... The book is filled with little pearls that give you a feel for what turn-of-the-20th-century life must have been like.'

Matt Elliott's book Kiwi Collectors: Curious and Unusual Kiwi Hobbies was published by HarperCollins NZ in 2013. Wayne Parsons reviewed the book for the Otago Daily Times saying, 'Elliott's collection of collectors is a treasury of New Zealand treasures, fantastically brought to life in an easy-to-read format complemented by glossy photographs of the collectors and some of their collections. Truly a New Zealand book about New Zealanders.'

Matt has been involved in an overseas charity project in which Alzheimers Research UK, in association with Eisai pharmaceuticals, developed a website to help educate children about dementia. Read about that project here.

In 2015, Matt published two new titles, Kieran Read: Tribute To A Great Eight and On This Rock: 75 Years of St. Peter’s College, Mountain Road.

In 2016, Matt's War Blacks was published by HarperCollins New Zealand. Harry Broad said ‘He’s done a lot of research…extremely interesting…the real value of the book is in the social history’ on Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan. ‘For anybody wanting the definitive story of the All Blacks at war, this is the book that does it... A fascinating read.’ – Doris Mousedale (Arcadia Bookshop, Newmarket) on Newstalk ZB with Leighton Smith. The NZ Listener calls it "a no-nonsense war history with a difference".

in 2017 he released two books. In the first, Wanda Ellis: my colourful life (Quo Vadis, 2017), he interviews and compiles the life story of Wanda Ellis who, after spending a harrowing time in the Soviet gulags, was one of the Polish children welcomed to Pahiatua during WWII.

The second was Night of the Riot (Salisbury Books, 2017). Click here to read reviews of this title.

In 2018, British specialist sports’ book publisher Pitch Publishing released Thorny encounters: a history of England v the All Blacks. The first book to chronicle every test match between the two countries since 1905, it also included interviews with former England players on their experiences of facing the All Blacks.

Matt had two books released in 2019. The first was The kiwi: endangered New Zealand icon (Imagination Press Ltd). For the Booksellers New Zealand blog, The Reader, Kathy Watson wrote that the book ‘is the result of some extensive research, unearthing a wealth of little known information. [Elliott’s] love of history and skills as a researcher are evident in this book. The illustrations and layout of The Kiwi make this an ideal introduction to our special bird. Both visitors and locals will discover a treasure trove of information between the covers.’ In the NZ Listener, Christopher Moore described it as resembling ‘the bird itself: idiosyncratic and engaging.’

The second was another rugby book, Rugby folklore: myths, legends and events that made New Zealand rugby. (HarperCollins) In North and South magazine, Paul Little wrote that the book was ‘for rugby obsessives – so it should find a wide readership, indeed.’

In 2020, with the America’s Cup regatta approaching, Harper Collins released With the wind behind us: stories that made New Zealand a sailing nation. The Waiheke Weekender described it as,A must for all true sea dogs, sports freaks and history-minded landlubbers.’


Matt Elliott is able to visit students aged 10 years and over and talk about being a non-fiction writer. He can read aloud from his work, speak about his life and work, take workshops, and answer questions. He can run specialist workshops on writing humour and how to do research. With many years of performance experience, he is comfortable with any number of students per session. He can travel anywhere in New Zealand for Writers in Schools visits.


Updated December 2017.